Writing for the Right to a Safe Childbirth in Burkina Faso

December 7, 2010

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

A pregnant woman waits in a clinic in Burkina Faso.

“I did what I could to save my sister-in-law but it cost too much for a poor man like me.”

Each year, some 4,000 women in Burkina Faso die from pregnancy-related complications. Women face a one-in-28 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. Most of those deaths could be prevented with timely access to quality maternal health care.

Albertine, a 25-year-old mother of two, died giving birth in January 2007.

She passed away at a regional hospital in Burkina Faso after delivering a stillborn child. Her brother-in-law, a farmer and mine worker, had to make several long trips to and from the hospital to borrow more than U.S. $100 – significantly more than his monthly income – to pay for blood and medicine. Albertine died while he was borrowing money to pay for a prescription.

Help prevent women dying needlessly in childbirth — be a part of this year’s Global Write-a-thon.

Many maternal deaths in Burkina Faso result from out-of-pocket costs that pregnant women living in poverty simply can’t afford, causing delays in deciding to seek care, in reaching health facilities, and in receiving treatment. Too often, those delays are deadly.

While Burkina Faso has made efforts to improve access to quality maternal health care services over the past several years, death rates in the country remain high. Despite policies aimed at lowering the cost of deliveries, care remains unaffordable for many families and low quality treatment, notably due to chronic shortages of skilled medical personnel and supplies, endangers the lives of pregnant women.

Though the Burkinabé government made a decision in 2006 to subsidize emergency obstetric and neonatal care by 80 percent, to provide free transportation between health centers and referral hospitals for all pregnant women, and to cover all health costs for the poorest women, the subsidy policy suffers from serious shortcomings. Women report having to pay more than the policy dictates, both due to real shortages and corruption, and uneven distribution of health facilities means that transportation remains a problem for many rural families (who represent 80% of the population).

During Amnesty’s mission to Burkina Faso in February of this year, President Blaise Compaoré pledged to remove financial barriers to emergency obstetric care. Join this year’s Global Write-a-thon and urge the president to keep his promise.

You’ll also help make a difference for thousands of women like Albertine by writing to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, calling for passage of the “Improvements in Global Maternal and newborn health Outcomes while Maximizing Successes Act” (the “Global MOMS Act”), which will expand access to quality maternal health care services and ensure that care meets international human rights standards. Write for Rights today!

Heather Lasher, Demand Dignity Campaign, contributed to this post.